We just watched CHE parts I and II on Blu Ray from Criterion. I’ve wanted to see this movie so bad because it was the first ever feature film shot with the RED ONE camera that we used on ACCIDENTAL ART. I originally wanted to see CHE in the theater on a 35mm film print to see how it transferred from a video source to celluloid and then projected, but it came and went so fast, I never heard that it played more than one showing in Columbus.
In most cases of video originated features that go to film print, when it comes back to video, they will telecine the film negative created thus solidifying the “film look”. In the case of the RED ONE footage and the movie CHE, they put the RED footage straight to Blu Ray instead, because the resolution of the RED footage is so high and clean, it made sense to use it.
The visual aesthetic was different. In CHE PART I, the contrast this with a nonlinear story going to black and white 16mm footage they shot, so the grain and detail were directly comparable. They also used anamorphic lenses on PART I, not the more standard film lenses. Since PART I took place in Cuba, the bright pastel colors and the greens were very bright, but pleasing. It didn’t look 10% like film per se, but it is still the closest approximation I’ve seen in a video camera.
For the grittier BOLIVIA story in PART II, the color palette changes, but the aesthetic of the RED remained and it looked great. I liked both movies, especially for how different they were. Steven Soderberg’s style very much represents the current dramatic filmmaking style that defines the last 10 years.
On the Blu Ray there is a 45 minute documentary on the development of the RED ONE camera and how it was used on the movie, and that this is the official first feature film to be shot with them. They even started with the prototype cameras that had no coverings over the sensor, so some of the dust speckles are from the fact that they had nothing to keep dirt out.
The handheld, available light, yet shallow focus, and slower paced style that permeate other movies like SEVEN POUNDS and CHILDREN OF MEN are all of a similar ilk. This is the modern dramatic aesthetic of today. I like it and want to move more towards this in my own work. In the end, the RED ONE does a great job with this look and feel. It’s the most filmic video camera I’ve ever seen. The VIPER and the GENESIS do good work, but they aren’t the same.